Saturday, September 28, 2019

Senior Spin Class

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I go to Senior spin class at my gym. I don't go to the the regular spin because they play music super loud and shout and scream and shame the participants if they don't go hard enough.

I know my own body. I've been riding bikes since I was a kid and was seriously "on the road" since the early 1970's. I enjoyed road riding up into the 2000's and then weight, illnesses, surgeries and age set in. Now, although I swore I'd never give up, it's beginning to scare me to ride on the road. There are too many distracted drivers, huge cars, high speeds. Those things, plus my balance is off --a side effect of aging and medication. My knees are shot from riding "accidents" (dog attacks, actually) and various youthful dumb-ass attempts to act a lot stronger and spryer than I actually am--or ever was.

The upshot is that spinning is about all that's left to this old cyclist. Usually we have a great instructor, Boz, who was once even more a hard-core rider than I am, but who now is also old and busted. Although he's still a big road rider, he knows what the 70+ body feels like. He warms up the class, he does stretching afterward, he doesn't play the music at ear-drum piercing levels. He asks us to work hard and challenge ourselves, but he belongs to the "No pain no pain" school of thinking.

Ribbon cutting for the new bike rake at the library.

Some in the class find him boring, but I don't. He, in my opinion, knows how to run a senior spin class. So what if he repeats himself a lot; I do too. I can even take him playing "Highway to the Danger Zone" at every class, especially because I know that he did his time and flew cargo all over Vietnam during our war. (Boz was too tall to be a fighter pilot.)

Yesterday I arrived at class, but Boz wasn't there. Instead we had a youngster, the kind who spends every minute until the beginning of the class thumbing through his phone. The music shakes the walls and over this he shouts that we can begin the class at a high tension and "at least 100 rpm." I can see how this is going to go, but I'm not going to leave after driving over here, so I decide to ride my own class. Whatever the youth says, I will simply scale it back to a level that my knees can endure. After all, my goal is to stay aerobically fit and NOT have knee surgery--a goal that is attainable if I use my head.

Well, it was 50 minutes of noise and absurd demands, but I got through it by just riding my own way. When the "instructor" got down and walked among us, checking up on what tension we were using, I simply kept my head down. I was waiting for him to say something, but by that time I was probably radiating sufficient dislike that even this ditz could see it pulsing around me. Wisely, he kept walking and made no comments to me--encouraging, shaming, teasing or otherwise.

If he had, I had a few choice words for him.

"Hey kid; my goal here is to nurse these knees along until I die. And--you know what? I was riding centuries* before you were born." 

~~Juliet Waldron

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*one hundred milers

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Alexander Hamilton's "Hurricane Letter"

Viewing clips of Dorian's destruction of the Bahamas, with 48 hours of pounding winds and storm surges, I remembered Alexander Hamilton's experience on St. Croix. He, aged 16-17, survived what must have been an extremely violent hurricane.

Christiansted, September 6, 1772
From the Royal Danish American Gazette—
By Alexander Hamilton

“I take up my pen to give you an imperfect account of one of the most dreadful Hurricanes that memory or any records whatever can trace, which happened here on the 31st of August at night. It began about dusk, at North, and raged very violently till ten o’clock. Then ensued a sudden and unexpected interval, which lasted about an hour. Meanwhile the wind was shifting round to the South West point, from whence it returned with redoubled fury and continued so ’till near three o’clock in the morning.

Good God! What horror and destruction! It is impossible for me to describe or you to form any idea of it. It seemed as if a total dissolution of nature was taking place. The roaring of the sea and wind, fiery meteors flying about it in the air, the prodigious glare of almost perpetual lightning, the crash of falling houses, and the ear-piercing shrieks of the distressed, were sufficient to strike astonishment into Angels.

A great part of the buildings throughout the Island are levelled to the ground, almost all the rest very shattered; several persons killed and numbers utterly ruined; whole families running about the streets, unknowing where to find a place of shelter; the sick exposed to the keenness of water and air without a bed to lie upon, or a dry covering to their bodies; and our harbours entirely bare….”

This is just sample of what was a much longer piece of teen prose, one which may have propelled this young literary up-and-comer out of the West Indies. The remainder of his discourse is as full of allusions to an All-merciful and/or All-punishing God as any 18th Century churchgoer might wish. Sometimes, however, unvarnished truth breaks through the flow of his pious public sentiments:

"But alas! how different, how deplorable—how gloomy the prospect—death comes rushing on in triumph veiled in a mantle of ten-fold darkness. His unrelenting scythe, pointed and ready for the stroke.—On his right hand sits destruction, hurling the winds and belching forth flames;—calamity on his left threatening famine, disease, distress of all kinds.—And Oh! thou wretch, look
still a little further; see the gulf of eternal mystery open—there mayest thou shortly plunge — ...

Hark! ruin and confusion on every side.—Tis thy turn next: but one short moment—even now—Oh Lord help—Jesus be merciful! 

Thus did I reflect, and thus at every gust of the wind did I conclude,—till it pleased the Almighty to allay..."

Alexander had been waiting to die; he now thanked God that he'd escaped.  At the end of the essay, he went a step further in his Christianity. He wrote an impassioned plea to his wealthy readers to help their less fortunate neighbors, the many who now had lost everything.

"—Look around thee and shudder at the view.—See desolation and ruin wherever thou turnest thine eye. See thy fellow-creatures pale and lifeless; their bodies mangled—their souls snatched into eternity—
...Oh ye, who revel in affluence, see the afflictions of humanity, and bestow your superfluity to ease them.—Say not, we have suffered also, and with-hold your compassion. What are your sufferings compared to these? Ye have still more than enough left.—Act wisely.—Succour the miserable and lay up a treasure in Heaven."

Hamilton, I think, truly wanted people to do the right thing, and he wasn't afraid to give men three times his age a lesson in scripture. It's an aspect of his personality that is endearingly boyish.

All I have is words, but for me they shall be a magical buckler and sheathe!

Juliet Waldron